TORONTO – Ontario will look at raising speed limits on provincial highways, with the transportation minister musing that those roads can safely handle traffic at 120 kilometres an hour.
Jeff Yurek said Wednesday that he will announce speed limit consultations next week, and signalled that the province will consider raising the maximum from its current 100 kilometres an hour.
“We’re looking at doing a couple of pilot projects at different speed limits, then having a full consultation to make sure that’s the path that Ontarians want to go,” he said. “Our roads are built and designed – the 400-series highways, provincial highways – to carry it at 120 kilometres an hour safely, so we’ve got to make sure that we keep that in mind with regards to speed limits.”
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police said this is an issue that crops up from time to time, and they are eager to participate in the consultations.
“We would be very interested to know the evidence-based research that potentially could result in a change in those speed limits,” said Joe Couto, director of government relations and communications. “It has to be very much about public safety, not about convenience for people who want to get from one place to another very fast.”
Most other provinces have highway speed limits of either 100 or 110 kilometres an hour. In British Columbia, certain divided, multilane highways have maximum speeds of 120 kilometres an hour.
Yurek referenced the upcoming consultations in an unrelated speech Wednesday in which he also said the province will review the rules of the road for bicycles, e-bikes and scooters.
The main announcement from the minister was that he will introduce legislation Thursday that would give the province ownership of future subway expansion projects in Toronto’s transit system. He said the upcoming bill would mean transit can get built faster and the government can focus on a regional network.
“That means fare integration and improved connectivity between transit systems,” he said. “We would be able to prioritize transportation projects and make decisions based on what is best for the people of Ontario, not just Toronto.”
The province has a greater capacity to finance projects, issue zoning orders, and compel utilities to prioritize relocation work, Yurek said.
Toronto and the provincial government are currently in discussions about Premier Doug Ford’s plan to take over responsibility for the city’s subway system. Toronto Mayor John Tory was asked Wednesday how he felt about legislation coming in the midst of negotiations.
“They indicated a long time ago…that they were going to introduce legislation that pertained to enabling the uploading of the new transit projects,” he said. “I think we should just kind of stay calm, stay at the table, keep talking to them.”
The legislation and other new regulations Yurek announced Wednesday will also tackle a host of transportation-related issues.
Fines will be increased for drivers travelling slowly in the left-hand lane, from a minimum of $60 to $150. The maximum fine will still be $1,000.
“When people drive dangerously slow, the safety of others is put at risk,” Yurek said to applause from the Toronto Region Board of Trade audience.
As well, stronger penalties will be introduced for careless driving around maintenance and construction workers, tow-truck operators and recovery workers, he said. Those people will be included as “vulnerable road users” for the purposes of aggravating sentencing factors in careless driving cases.
Current laws prohibit the use of off-road vehicles on municipal roads unless the community passes a bylaw to allow for it. The new bill will presumptively allow the vehicles on municipal roads, unless the municipality specifically bans them.
The government is also proposing to allow solo motorcycle riders to use Ontario’s high occupancy vehicle lanes.
Yurek said the province further plans to eliminate a requirement for owners of pick-up trucks and trailers to get them inspected if they are for personal use. It will also allow vehicle dealers to apply online for permits, plates and validation stickers on behalf of customers, instead of them having to line up at Service Ontario.